Changes to the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) have been proposed that would significantly weaken how habitat is protected under the law, but we can still help prevent them.
The changes would narrow the definition of habitat under the ESA, limiting the ability of federal agencies to conserve and restore areas important for the survival of ESA-listed species.
The proposed definition does not incorporate habitat areas in need of restoration, or account for shifts in habitat ranges expected to come with climate change, both of which are essential to the recovery of threatened and endangered species. At a time when habitat destruction and climate change are threatening so many species, we should be improving, not weakening, the way we protect them under the ESA.
A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here
Actions You Can Take
Feeling sweaty? You’re not the only one. Higher temperatures also mean increased air pollution – which impacts people of color and of lower socioeconomic status most – and climate change is making matters worse. Learn how you can help >
Good news – the Massachusetts House passed A 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth, a Mass Audubon priority and a win for climate action, natural lands, and frontline communities. Thank your representative!
A federal court has ruled that the legal basis for Migratory Bird Treaty Act rollbacks is inconsistent with the law. The fight isn’t over, but this is a win.
Sherborn is the latest Massachusetts community to prioritize open space protection when adding to housing supply – the Town voted to adopt a zoning bylaw making Open Space Zoning the preferred method of residential development over sprawling subdivisions. Mass Audubon provided guidance on the process.
A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.
Actions You Can Take
Birds in the US are in trouble due to factors like climate change and habitat loss, and now the Trump administration has taken another step toward rolling back Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections. We’re fighting these changes, and you can help >
Mass Audubon supports legislation that lays out a roadmap for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Learn more about its goals in this recently recorded webinar, and help it pass by taking action here.
Mass Audubon supports state legislation that would help nonprofits cope with the financial strains of the global pandemic. The bill would provide $75 million of public investment back into these community-based organizations.
With our coalition of wildlife protection groups, Mass Audubon submitted comments on the latest phase of federal review of the Mayflower Wind Energy project. Our comments focused on ensuring site surveys are done in a way that mitigates harm to marine mammals.
Healthy forests are critical for public health, and the state has released updates to its Forest Action Plan to ensure the health of Massachusetts trees and forests into the future. We provided input on the updates.
Each year, Massachusetts celebrates its Commonwealth Heroines, women making outstanding contributions to their communities. This year’s class includes Deb Cary, Mass Audubon’s Director of Central Sanctuaries.
New legislation that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife is on the move at the State House. Learn more about why this bill is the wrong choice for mosquito control, and how you can help.
This week Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton is retiring after more than 30 years with our organization. We’ll miss his warmth, passion for nature, and the strong example he set as a leader. Thank you, Gary, for all your years of service!
Climate Action on the Cape
Mass Audubon signed on to support a Cape Cod Climate Emergency Declaration, coordinated by local groups in the region mobilizing to address the climate crisis. To date 1,300 governments around the world have declared climate emergencies, including municipalities like Amherst, Boston, and Worcester.
New MVP Funding Available
The state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program has opened its next funding round for Planning and Action grants. Mass Audubon is a certified provider for the program, which helps communities plan for climate change and improve their resilience.
Small Fish, Big Role in our Ecosystems
Good news for seabirds and other species that feed on small fish known as sand lances – a new state regulation will reduce their overfishing. Thanks to the Division of Marine Fisheries for making this change! Mass Audubon also consulted on a recent paper on sand lances’ importance for Atlantic Ocean ecosystems.
Poll of the Week
A new Yale poll finds that a majority of American voters support financial relief for renewable energy companies, rather than bailouts for oil and gas companies, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Update 7/23/2020: The revised bill has been signed into law by the Governor.
We’ll now be following its implementation closely through the state’s Mosquito Control for a 21st Century Task Force, which will include advocating for statewide reform of Massachusetts’ approach to mosquito control to improve environmental and public health practices.
The revised bill no longer allows the Reclamation Board to override all state laws, and creates a task force to review and propose updates to the state’s mosquito control system, based on science. It also includes notification and reporting requirements for aerial or other wide-scale pesticide applications. Mass Audubon supports these proposed revisions, and now the new bill is headed to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing for further approval.
Thanks to everyone that submitted testimony or contacted committee members – advocacy around this bill by conservation groups and others made a big difference. While this redraft marks progress, we are also still hoping to see additional changes.
Original post: A bill is moving through the state’s Joint Committee on Public Health that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife, and counterproductive to public health concerns.
An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth (H.4650), proposed by Governor Baker, aims to address mosquito borne disease, but it goes much too far. The bill would exempt the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board from all state laws and allow them to conduct mosquito eradication measures anywhere in the Commonwealth. This proposed change is based on a determination by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) that there may be a threat of mosquito borne disease somewhere in the state in the next year, but this is too vague a standard to result in such drastic measures.
The way the bill is written, there is no minimum threshold for these actions to kick in, no opportunity for input from affected communities or landowners, and no expiration date. The Reclamation Board would be exempt from all state laws, including Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Law, Public Records Act, and environmental laws like the Endangered Species and Wetlands Protection Acts.
Mass Audubon supports the recommendations of the national Centers for Disease Control and US Environmental Protection Agency calling for a science-based mosquito-borne disease management program, with the goal of protecting public health while minimizing environmental and human health risks associated with some types of mosquito control. Spraying of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes is the least effective, and most environmentally damaging, method.
Reform is needed for mosquito control in Massachusetts, since our existing systems are antiquated and fragmented. But this bill won’t achieve those reforms, instead giving more clout to the existing broken systems.
The proposed legislation is of particular concern at a time when many people are seeking to reduce their exposures to chemicals. More and more people are growing their own food and managing their yards and gardens with minimal or no pesticides, both to protect their own health and for the benefit of wild pollinators, which are in serious decline. This bill would eliminate landowner’s rights to be excluded from routine pesticide spraying.
Mass Audubon is opposing this bill at the State House and encouraging the Public Health Committee to reject it.
You can help by opposing the bill too.
Contact the Joint Committee on Public Health and let them know that this bill is too broad, putting wildlife and water supplies at risk, and that it lacks transparency by not providing a role for local boards of health or environmental groups.
Please include “PUBLIC HEALTH TESTIMONY” in the subject line of the email, and include the name, title and organization (if applicable), address, and telephone number of the person submitting testimony.
Although Mass Audubon’s sanctuaries are currently closed due to the stay-at-home advisory, we have citizen science projects and activities for kids you can do closer to home. Stay tuned for more ways to take action and support your community during these challenging times.
Update from the State House
As we’ve all been adjusting to our new normal over the past few weeks, activity at the State House has redirected—but it hasn’t stopped. Here’s a quick recap on what’s been happening, from COVID-19 relief to old growth forest protections.
→ The state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program is holding April webinars on how to apply for funding.
Speaking Up for Environmental Protections
Mass Audubon recently joined with our conservation partners to oppose two damaging changes to federal environmental laws—loosening enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and proposed “updates” to the National Environmental Policy Act that violate the law’s intent.
Free Technical Assistance Opportunity
The Southeast New England (SNEP) Network is offering communities in that region the opportunity to apply for free technical and training assistance for stormwater management and ecological restoration. Mass Audubon is a SNEP Network partner. Learn more & apply >
The 100-year old federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)
is one of our first environmental statutes, and makes it illegal to hunt, trap,
kill, or possess nearly 1,000 avian species. Despite providing crucial
protections, the law has been under
attack since 2017.
Now, the Trump administration has taken the next step in
codifying damaging changes to the MBTA into law by filing their Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking.
When birds die through activities like energy extraction, the MBTA helps hold companies responsible, and is a strong incentive to avoid such impacts in the first place. If the proposed change becomes law, incidental, as opposed to deliberate, bird deaths resulting from these activities – for example, birds killed in oil spills – will no longer result in prosecution.
You can help fight this change.
A group of national conservation organizations are suing the Department of
Interior over changes to the law, and there’s still time to voice our
opposition through the public review process.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public
comments on this proposed change through March 19. You can
submit your own comments to voice your opposition to these protection
Let USFWS know birds
are already in serious trouble, due to factors like habitat loss and
climate change, and that it’s unacceptable to stop holding companies
responsible for bird deaths at a time when 76% of all bird species in the US
Last year the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which makes it illegal to hunt, trap, and kill nearly 1,000 avian species, came under attack. The US Department of the Interior (DOI) decided “incidental,” as opposed to “intentional,” bird deaths resulting from commercial activities – for example, birds killed in oil spills – would no longer result in prosecution. This change effectively removes accountability over such deaths, since there is no incentive for companies to take measures to avoid them.
Fortunately, federal legislation has now been introduced to restore these protections. The Migratory Bird Protection Act (H.R. 5552) would amend the MBTA to once again include and regulate incidental bird deaths.
You can help this bill succeed!
Please contact your US Representative to ask them to co-sponsor H.R.5552. Let them know that the MBTA is one of our country’s best protections for bird species, and that we need these protections now more than ever, since birds are disappearing at an alarming rate and are further threatened by climate change.
Pollinators like bees, butterflies, and bats are in trouble. Factors like
habitat loss, pesticide use, invasive species, disease, and climate change are
all to blame, and their impacts on pollinators also present a larger threat to biodiversity
and food supply.
An Act to Protect Pollinators would establish a commission to
investigate solutions that better protect and promote pollinators’ health. The
bill would require the commission to include individuals with expertise in the
protection of pollinators, wildlife protection and expertise in native plants.
We joined our Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions in advocating for Senate passage of An act relative to GreenWorks. This state legislation passed the House in July and would enhance climate mitigation and adaptation, foster more resilient communities, and drive economic growth.
With partners, we provided comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service on a proposed wind project off sections of the east coast. The area includes habitat for endangered whales and other marine mammals, and our comments focus on advancing offshore wind in a sustainable way for wildlife.
News on National Leadership
Congratulations to our friend and colleague Gina McCarthy on being selected as the next president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. A former EPA Administrator, Gina is a bold environmental leader and we look forward to working with her again.